Since most of the South Asian countries are looking for large-scale investment without pre-conditions, Chinese investment is serving the purpose. Although there is a prevailing notion of debt trap regarding Chinese investment, several South Asian countries hold positive views on China initiated Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and have engaged with China in infrastructure development, trade and security purchase. Countries like Bangladesh and Nepal are balancing between India and China. Till now, India enjoys the unilateral influence upon the political atmosphere in Bangladesh and Nepal though these countries have certain persuasion to break away from Indian influence, otherwise, they would not seek a balanced policy.
Many believe that China does not interfere in the domestic politics of South Asian countries which is not always true. We have seen that the ruling party in Maldives withstood the pressure exerted by India and the Western countries on democracy due to support of China. But in Sri Lanka, a negative public opinion is created against Chinese investment since it placed massive debt burden on Sri Lanka. During Xi Jinping’s visit to Bangladesh in 2016, he promised USD 24 billion investment compared to the Chinese investment of USD 62 billion in Pakistan’s CPEC. But both in Nepal and Bangladesh, Chinese investment is seen from the perspective of opposing Indian dominion.
India promotes ethnic accommodation in Sri Lanka since the country has the dominant Buddhist population. It also promotes the political accommodation of Madhesis in Nepal, electoral fair play in Maldives and non-extremist sentiment in Bangladesh. But China doesn’t work in that way. It protects its interest by aligning itself with government interest. It is evident that China is playing geoeconomics when India is playing geopolitics in South Asian region with the tacit support from the US-led West.